Vancouver City Council approves 43-storey tower designed by Burj Khalifa architect

Dec 14 2021, 1:27 am

The future cluster of unique tower architecture in the general vicinity of the prominent intersection of West Georgia Street and Cardero Street will intensify, following Vancouver City Council’s decision last week to approve a 43-storey condominium and rental housing tower at 1640-1650 Alberni Street.

In a 7-1 vote, city council approved the rezoning application by developers Landa Global Properties and Asia Standard Americas, with TEAM councillor Colleen Hardwick voting in opposition. OneCity councillor Christine Boyle and independent councillors Lisa Dominato and Sarah Kirby-Yung were absent from the decision.

Currently, the mid-block property is occupied by a 1969-built, 15-storey tower with 66 rental homes and three levels of office.

The replacement tower will include 264 homes, including 198 luxury condominium units in the upper levels and 66 one-for-one replacement secured rental units, with at least 20% of the units rented at below-market rates, and residents of the existing building being provided with right of first refusal to return at 20% below-market rents.

1640-1650 alberni street vancouver

Site of 1640-1650 Alberni Street, Vancouver. (SOM/IBI Group/Landa Global Properties/Asia Standard Americas)

Existing condition:

1650 Alberni Street Vancouver

Site of 1650 Alberni Street, Vancouver. (Google Maps)

Future condition:

1640-1650 alberni street vancouver

Artistic rendering of 1640-1650 Alberni Street, Vancouver. (SOM/IBI Group/Landa Global Properties/Asia Standard Americas)

The San Francisco office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) is the architectural firm behind the design, which is responsible for some of the world’s most significant buildings, such as Dubai’s Burj Khalifa and New York City’s One World Trade Center (Freedom Tower). The architect of record is the Vancouver office of IBI Group.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with such an esteemed architecture firm on what we believe will be an iconic addition to the Vancouver skyline,” said Kevin Cheung, CEO of Landa Global Properties, commenting on SOM’s first tower design in Vancouver.

“We are happy to be moving forward on this exciting project and happy to be part of the resurgence of noteworthy architectural projects in the downtown core, an area of the city that we really believe in. The downtown Vancouver market has been quiet since COVID, so it’s great to see projects moving forward.”

1640-1650 alberni street vancouver

Artistic rendering of 1640-1650 Alberni Street, Vancouver. (SOM/IBI Group/Landa Global Properties/Asia Standard Americas)

1640-1650 alberni street vancouver

Artistic rendering of 1640-1650 Alberni Street, Vancouver. (SOM/IBI Group/Landa Global Properties/Asia Standard Americas)

1640-1650 alberni street vancouver

Artistic rendering of 1640-1650 Alberni Street, Vancouver. (SOM/IBI Group/Landa Global Properties/Asia Standard Americas)

Michael Temple, the associate director of SOM, says the tower is conceptualized as a series of “stacked trays,” with the alignment offset to create balconies on each floor.

“The strategic spacing of continuous balconies optimizes winter solar heating while limiting summer heat gain. The combined result of this building form, along with a compact, high-performing glass envelope and state-of-the-art building systems, is an ultra high-performance building,” he said.

Temple adds that the three-storey sky gardens in the building corners serve to create  a “uniquely sculpted tower silhouette,” and “lighten the overall sense of mass and help to give the tower its distinctive presence on the Vancouver skyline.”

1640-1650 Alberni Street Vancouver 2020

Artistic rendering of 1640-1650 Alberni Street, Vancouver. (SOM/IBI Group/Landa Global Properties/Asia Standard Americas)

1640-1650 alberni street vancouver

Artistic rendering of 1640-1650 Alberni Street, Vancouver. (SOM/IBI Group/Landa Global Properties/Asia Standard Americas)

1640-1650 alberni street vancouver

Artistic rendering of 1640-1650 Alberni Street, Vancouver. (SOM/IBI Group/Landa Global Properties/Asia Standard Americas)

Green Party councillor Pete Fry indicated that the unique design contributed to this decision to support the project.

“I really like the design. I think it brings a bit of a different flavour to what we typically see, and I like that staggered slab look,” said Fry. “I think it’s something we don’t always talk about here in council chambers, about design excellence and innovative design, and how we can move beyond the big curtain wall approach.”

Both Green Party councillor Adriane Carr and COPE councillor Jean Swanson commended the project’s one-for-one replacement rental units, 20% below-market rent for returning residents, and the significant level of community amenity contributions (CACs) committed.

In exchange for the strata uses and level of density, the developers will provide the City of Vancouver with $32.7 million in cash CACs towards covering the public amenity projects outlined by the city’s West End Community Plan. This is in addition to development cost levies of $7.35 million and a required public art budget of $513,000.

1640-1650 alberni street vancouver

Artistic rendering of 1640-1650 Alberni Street, Vancouver. (SOM/IBI Group/Landa Global Properties/Asia Standard Americas)

1640-1650 alberni street vancouver

Artistic rendering of 1640-1650 Alberni Street, Vancouver. (SOM/IBI Group/Landa Global Properties/Asia Standard Americas)

1640-1650 alberni street vancouver

Artistic rendering of 1640-1650 Alberni Street, Vancouver. (SOM/IBI Group/Landa Global Properties/Asia Standard Americas)

Up until 2018, the property was owned by Hollyburn Properties, which had submitted a rezoning application for a 42-storey tower with 276 secured rental homes, largely at market rates. Hollyburn Properties previously told Daily Hive Urbanized they had cancelled their rental housing application and sold their property, after the municipal government indicated their preference for condominium uses given the high level of CACs it would generate.

“The major issue with this proposal and other along the Alberni-Georgia corridor is that it reflects an unsuccessful approach to increasing housing affordability in Vancouver and the West End,” said Hardwick, explaining her opposition to the project. “In fact, increased density of primarily strata towers has the opposite effect on affordability.”

With a lot size of 17,300 sq ft and a total floor area of 259,000 sq ft, the building will have a floor area ratio of 14.97 times larger than the size of the land it sits on.

Eight underground levels will contain 268 vehicle parking stalls and 535 secure bike parking spaces.

The tower’s approved height is 397 ft, which exceeds the 357 ft height restriction for the site established by View Cone 20 emanating from the intersection of Granville Street and West Broadway. However, taller heights exceeding the view cone of up to 400 ft have been permitted as the building’s form falls within a “view cone shadow,” which is the condition when existing buildings to the south conceal the new tower within the protected view.

1640-1650 alberni street vancouver

Artistic rendering of 1640-1650 Alberni Street, Vancouver. (SOM/IBI Group/Landa Global Properties/Asia Standard Americas)

1640-1650 alberni street vancouver

Artistic rendering of 1640-1650 Alberni Street, Vancouver. (SOM/IBI Group/Landa Global Properties/Asia Standard Americas)

1640-1650 Alberni Street Vancouver 2020

Artistic rendering of 1640-1650 Alberni Street, Vancouver. (SOM / IBI / Landa Global Properties / Asia Standard Americas)

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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